Patton Oswalt talks 'Penguin Town' and why he's so into voicing stories about animals

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read
Patton Oswalt says he has a lot of empathy for animals. (Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SCAD aTVfest 2018 )
Patton Oswalt says he has a lot of empathy for animals. (Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SCAD aTVfest 2018 )

Whether he's playing the main character of a rat in Pixar's 2007 hit Ratatouille or a penguin on Netflix's animated series Bojack Horseman, Patton Oswalt has loaned his voiced to a lot of animal-focused projects.

"I don't know, I just, I really empathize with animals, especially wild animals," he tells Yahoo Entertainment "It's such a different kind of mindset. In a way, a pure and more beautiful mindset, than I think what a lot of us have, and so maybe that's just what draws me to it and what makes my voice good for it."

In his latest project, Netflix docuseries Penguin Town, Oswalt is the narrator of a delightful story about penguins. Specifically, a colony of endangered African penguins that invades Simon's Town, which is south of Cape Town, every summer in search of a mate, with the goal to keep their numbers up and avoid extinction. So, you know, serious stuff! But, as you can see in the trailer, debuting here exclusively, the filmmakers manage to keep it light most of the time. The audience sees the penguins tottering around as they look for a place to call home for a few months, seeking out a mate and squabbling over turf. 

"I was just immediately enchanted by the idea of it's a nature documentary, but it's more about nature invading urban spaces and how nature still wins out in spite of all of these obstacles," Oswalt tells Yahoo Entertainment. "I mean, we've all seen March of the Penguins, and you think, 'Oh my god, that was a grueling ordeal for those penguins. Well, if they're in a city it'd be so much easier.' But in a way, it's even harder in this one, and they still survive, and watching that journey for me was just fascinating. I couldn't get enough of it, so I really wanted to narrate it."

And the series is enchanting, introducing us not to nameless animals but to individuals and families with storylines. For instance, the Culverts are a couple of black and whites described as "newlyweds," searching for their first home. The series is packed with interesting facts and figures about penguins, like that they swim 10 miles on an average day, and gorgeous shots, some even underwater, when the penguins swim.

Oswalt's favorite part of the series has to do with the many personalities of its stars.

"I really loved the storyline of this little couple that builds their nest in a parking lot. [There's] this little parking lot gang that keeps trying to rough them up and they have to fight 'em off," he says. "It has kind of a tragic, a very tragic element to it that I won't spoil, but it's ultimately very hopeful, and I just was so drawn into that."

Oswalt, who currently voices the title character on the animated series Marvel's M.O.D.O.K., narrates TV's The Goldbergs and portrays Principal Durbin on sitcom A.P. Bio, explains the different way that he approaches jobs that require only his voice.

"For me, voice acting, in a way, is just a more concentrated form of acting. You have to get motion and emotion through purely in your voice," Oswalt says. "Even though you use your body a lot when you do voice acting — you're not just sitting still and talking, you're acting out the stuff — but you really have to kind of focus your persona, I guess, through your voice and what you're doing with your voice. You have to make that a much wider tool."

Hear Oswalt narrate Penguin Town when it debuts Wednesday, June 16 on Netflix.

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